Robert Broom an interesting case.

10 months ago

Last week I introduced the fossil Mrs. Ples and one of her discoverers in the form of Dr Robert Broom an Scottish medical doctor who found himself doing some rather interesting work rummaging around in the rocks of South Africa as a palaontologist.

He later became the professor of zoology and geology at Victoria College, Stellenbosch, South Africa, and later keeper of vertebrate paleontology at the South African Museum, Cape Town.

Below is a commemorative bust of him holding the Mrs. Ples scull that stands at the exit or entrance to the Sterkfontein cave. the caves made famous in the beginning by his efforts and excavations there.

He first became known and respect for his voluminous work describing the mammal like reptile fossils of the Karroo region in South Africa.

The mammal like reptiles are an odd bunch... not as famous as their movie star Jurassic cousins but no less interesting from an evolutionary perspective being the lineage that would later give rise to the later mammals and eventually us.

Here are a couple of pics I took of some specimens that were on display recently.

and of course a more familiar dinosaur

Broom's find of Mrs. Ples backed up Ramond Dart's Taung Child and only then did it begin to be taken seriously.

Later he discovered Paranthropus robustus which I covered here:

all of these discoveries though controversial at first lead to the gradual inclusion of South Africa on the paleoanthropological map

What makes him interesting to me is this little snippet I found on Wikipedia:

Broom was a nonconformist and was deeply interested in the paranormal and spiritualism; he was a critic of Darwinism and materialism. Broom was a believer in spiritual evolution. In his book The Coming of Man: Was it Accident or Design? (1933) he claimed that "spiritual agencies" had guided evolution as animals and plants were too complex to have arisen by chance. According to Broom, there were at least two different kinds of spiritual forces, and psychics are capable of seeing them. Broom claimed there was a plan and purpose in evolution and that the origin of Homo sapiens is the ultimate purpose behind evolution. According to Broom "Much of evolution looks as if it had been planned to result in man, and in other animals and plants to make the world a suitable place for him to dwell in."

After discovering the skull of Mrs. Ples, Broom was asked if he excavated at random, Broom replied that spirits had told him where to find his discoveries.

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  trending

Hmmm. Broom's "inspiration" is not well known in the paleontology circles! Great read, thanks.

I like to vote for anything science related. You're doing a great job @gavvet.

How absolutely interesting. I had no idea Robert Broom held these views on creation. I spent much time in the Kitching Fossil Centre in Nieu Bethesda and have also been taken on fossil walks around the area. It does make one wonder deeply about how it all happened. Thanks for sharing.


How it all happened always crosses my mind.... you may say its an obsession of mine.

Excellent post sir @gavvet, valuable information and history, congratulations for another great job

Nice and informative article. I appreciate you sharing something like this. Learning new information is good. This had quite a bit I have not heard about.

A question I have never asked you (or I don't remember the answer... then sorry): are you a palaeontologist (on top of your other activities of course)?


Nope, my Aspergers just makes me research a lot. However my great-grand mother was an amateur archaeologist who used to correspond with Broom etc. Those letters are still in the family and I inherited her books, notes and collection of 1000's of stone age and other artifacts.


This sounds very cool! :)

This post has been ranked within the top 80 most undervalued posts in the second half of Nov 14. We estimate that this post is undervalued by $6.48 as compared to a scenario in which every voter had an equal say.

See the full rankings and details in The Daily Tribune: Nov 14 - Part II. You can also read about some of our methodology, data analysis and technical details in our initial post.

If you are the author and would prefer not to receive these comments, simply reply "Stop" to this comment.